The B-24 Liberator Number 107 was on a training flight from Tonopah, Nevada to Tucson, Arizona. A combat crew is usually ten men, but only six were onboard the Number 107 (the four machine-gunners were missing.)
The next thing "Goldie" knew, the morning sun is shining in his face. He is completely amazed and astonished beyond belief! In other words, Lieutenant Goldblum is completely "mind-boggled"! Yes, his chute is snagged on the edge of this rough stone over-hang. It is hill number 3921 on the topographic map of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. If he had unbuckled his chute harness, he would probably have tumbled 1,200 feet before reaching rock bottom!
Goldblum carefully unbuckles his chute harness and sees before him part of the Tonto Plateau. This is a green, cactus covered plain between Tuna Creek and Flint Creek. There are many creeks and springs that feed into the Colorado River. Beyond this looms Point Sublime, one of the landmarks in the Grand Canyon.
Around noon, he finds the navigator, Flight Officer Maurice "Mo" Cruickshank. He is hobbling around with a badly broken foot. As soon as the sun goes down it becomes rather cold, temperatures can drop thirty degrees or more. Wrapping themselves in their parachutes helped ward off the cold.
The next day Cruickshank and Goldblum begin to follow the river downstream. Cruickshank spots a man in a dark green sweater on a ridge above them, who turns out to be flight engineer Roy Embanks. He has spread out his parachute and weighted it down with rocks. This is a standard signal rescue sign. At 2:00AM Wednesday morning the trio bailed out, now it is Saturday and they are getting mighty hungry! Embanks is Catholic, Goldblum is Jewish, and Cruickshank is Protestant... all three pray for deliverance throughout the night.
Early the next morning, Sunday morning, their prayers are answered. A B-24 Liberator flew over low and dropped K rations and canteens wrapped in GI blankets. Also dropped are orders: "Greetings! You are in the Grand Canyon. Do not leave your position until notified by message dropped from an Army airplane."
On subsequent drops, more food, clothing, and a two-way radio were received. Now, the trio had bailed out in sheepskin jackets, pants, and rubber-soled flight boots. These boots were awfully hard to use in the mountains, so they requested their regular Army brogans. So, each man had his shoes in a small package dropped. However, the drop containing Cruickshank's brogans promptly drifted right over the edge into the river below! He forlornly called over the two-way radio, "Buddy, can you spare an extra pair of shoes?" So, very soon, replacement 9-B brogans were safely parachuted down to him.
To a city boy from Pittsburgh, Goldblum viewed this like an alien on the moon. Great, red-layered cliffs, side canyons, gorges, and chasms loomed as far as he could see. The Grand Canyon is indeed an awesome experience, especially the first time you see it and he is seeing it at dawn, the best time of the day. If you have never seen the Grand Canyon at dawn, you are missing one of the most awe-inspiring scenes in the world. The sun shows up, over the edge, and begins lighting up the eastern facing cliffs (some of which are over 7,000 feet high.) Finally, it angles down into the depths, changing the colors of the rocks as it travels.
The Grand Canyon is only two hundred seventy seven miles long, and from one mile to eighteen miles wide. This is one place that everyone should see, at least once in their lifetime. The Grand Canyon ranks as one of the most colossal wonders of this whole world.Naturally, if you are lost in the middle, that is a different story. Previously, an Army Air Force pilot was lost for three months in the canyon. No one knew that he had crashed there, so no one was looking for him. He survived by eating the prickly pear fruit of the cactus growing in the canyon. The Indians also eat the fruit and make a drink from it too.
If you are an avid boater, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon contains some of the worst rapids available anywhere. Boat trips from one day to three weeks are also available. The north and south rims are like two separate worlds. The north rim is closed during the winter with twelve to seventeen feet of snow, while the south rim is open all year around. One of the most popular attractions is the mule train. Sometimes it is booked a year in advance, although some of the mules are very temperamental. They like to walk along the outer edge of the trail...then one will skip a step! Then, turn its head to look at you and grin! A day's mule ride takes seven hours to reach the bottom. Then, you can stay over night at a motel called Phantom Ranch. but, you must cross the Colorado River on a cable suspension bridge about 548 feet long. In a high wind it sways so much that even some of the mules balk.
A south rim rescue team set out on mule-back. They carried a four inch line throwing cannon and a two piece rescue boat. At the river, the boat would be assembled and ferried across on a line fired by the cannon. Three extra mules were brought along for the airmen.
When the Tonto Plateau was reached, the flood-swollen Colorado River was too swift for the boat and they decided that the cannon could not penetrate the hard granite of the opposite canyon wall. Therefore, the rescue team had to give up and turn back. On Wednesday, June 28, another rescue team started out, this time from the north rim. This consisted of Dr. Alan MacRae and Ranger Ed Lawes. They left Grama Point and traveled down the east side of Tuna Creek.
About noon of the next day, Thursday, June 29, they walked into the well-supplied camp of the three airmen. "Well," Lawes quipped, "You boys sure are suffering in comfort." Finally, on Friday, June 30, 1944 at 12:45PM, the five scrambled back up onto Grama Point. A waiting crowd of newspaper and radio reporters, photographers, military brass, and the park service officials swarmed them. The trio of B-24J airmen had spent ten days below the rim of the fabulous Grand Canyon. Two of the airmen, Flight Engineer Corporal Roy Embanks and Flight Officer Maurice "Mo" Cruickshank, survived the war and lived to a ripe old age. However, Second Lieutenant Charles "Goldie" Goldblum was killed the next year, 1945, while flying in another B-24J Liberator in the Philippine Islands. In 1991, "Mo" Cruickshank returned to the Grand Canyon and looked down into Tuna Creek from Point Sublime.
Today, there would be no trace left of the encampment on Hill Number 3921, for the park service removed everything left behind by the airmen trio. Of course, they did leave the two pink rattlesnakes alone. The Grand Canyon is the only place on Earth that has pink rattlesnakes and anyone wanting to buy a wild burro may do so from the Grand Canyon Park Services!
The Military Hardware of World War Two by Eric Grove, Christopher Chant, David and Hugh Lyon
The Grand Canyon by Robert Wallace and Time-Life Books
Arizona Highways Magazine, July 1997 by Norm Tessman